In a budget process that "devolved into a clash of wills," according to the Houston Chronicle, TMO clergy and leaders leveraged a major wage win for workers: $14 per hour for 3,000+ of the lowest paid employees in the Houston Independent School District, employees who keep children safe, nourished, and schools clean.
In testimony to the HISD Board, Deacon Sam Dunning, Director of the Office of Peace and Justice in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston argued: "A budget is a moral document...it is time to treat all workers with dignity."
Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis of Northside Episcopal Church argued, "There is a price to be paid for allocating funds that is not equitable to all classes and that price will be paid by your hourly workers and their family members... in the form of hunger, inadequate housing, anxiety, fear and stress." Rev. Jimmy Grace of St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Rev. Darrel Lewis of New Pleasant Grove Baptist, Rev. Jacqueline Hailey of New Hope Baptist, Rev. Rhenel Johnson of St. Andrew's UMC and Chava Gal-Orr from Temple Sinai spoke at Board meetings and press conferences as well.
This spring, TMO was part of a delegation of 300 Texas IAF leaders that called on state legislators to increase spending in public education in order to retain the talent upon which public schools rely. After passage of HB3, which put millions of dollars into public schools across the state, TMO leaders worked locally to make sure Houston Independent School District used its funds for the lowest paid workers.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision]
Houston ISD Trustees Approve $1.9 Billion Budget, Houston Chronicle
Video of clergy statements [first skip to 14:33 and then to 19:05]
TMO leaders held a press conference on Tuesday, June 18th at the Houston Independent School District (HISD) Administration Building to stand with workers in HISD. With the lowest paid workers being paid $12 per hour, and with $136 million additional dollars flowing into the school district, the time to stop perpetuating poverty in the district is NOW. TMO is calling for a starting wage of $15, and we need your support. Leaders have started a petition calling for a raise in wages to $15 an hour for the lowest paid workers. Petitions are being circulated and signed in member institutions with hundreds of signatures already obtained.
Rev. Jacqueline Hailey and Rev. Darrell Lewis (bottom photos) also spoke in front of the school board at the most recent HISD budget hearing asking for starting wages to be raised to $15 per hour. Leaders are continuing to schedule meetings, call and write to board members to directly advocate for the raising of wages for workers and support staff before the Board’s vote on Thursday, June 27th.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision.]
Reflecting on an independent study of the long-term job training program on which Capital IDEA-Houston is modeled, Houston Chronicle business columnist Chris Tomlinson writes that:
"Programs to train low-skilled, underemployed adults to move up the economic ladder are notoriously ineffective, but Project Quest in San Antonio has hit on a formula with a now-proven track record....
Marc Elliott, CEO of Economic Mobility Corp, asserts that “to see earning differences this large and for this long is unprecedented in the workforce development field.” Economic Mobility is the organization that conducted the nine-year evaluation.
Capital IDEA-Houston, which was established by TMO, is modeled on Project QUEST. In right-side photos above, trainees learn to conduct PERRLA evaluations and cradle newborns. [Photo Credit: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News]
San Antonio Program Moves Low-Skilled into Middle Class, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST's Continuing Impact, Economic Mobility Corporation [pdf]
TMO and Texas IAF Leaders Push Legislative Committee to Delay Vote on Extreme Payday Lending Proposal
Rev. Darrell Lewis from The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) and Rev. Olin Knudsen from Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) testified before the House Pensions, Investments & Financial Services Committee to oppose House Bill 3292. Both pastors argued that payday loans are immoral and spoke of how predatory loans trap families in their congregations in vicious cycles of debt.
House Bill 3292 Fact Sheet, Texas Fair Lending Alliance
After a morning briefing on school finance, the Texas Innovative Career Education (ACE) program and other issues -- including healthcare, payday lending, and infrastructure in the colonias -- leaders were honored for their establishment of noteworthy labor market intermediaries, including Capital IDEA-Houston. Immediately afterward, they convened on the South Capitol steps. Legislators representing districts from across the state stood in solidarity with leaders and pledged to continue working for investments in people.
In photo above, the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson is accompanies by TMO leaders and leaders from sister organizations, including Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI), San Antonio (COPS/Metro), Central Texas / Austin Interfaith, West Texas Organizing Strategy (WTOS), El Paso's Border Interfaith & EPISO, and the Rio Grande Valley (Valley Interfaith).
After the press conference, leaders broke out into smaller delegations to meet with legislators representing their geographic regions.
Organizations Call On State Legislators to Support Adult Education, Univision 62 [Spanish video]
40 TMO leaders and Capital IDEA graduates joined over 200 Network of Texas (NTO) IAF organization leaders at the Texas state capital to talk to our state representatives and senators about restoring full funding of the Texas Innovative Adult Career Education Fund (ACE Fund). Our delegation met with 20 legislators and/or their staffs asking them to support the ACE fund at its full $5 million, and also supporting bail reform, local control, and opposing ant-immigrant legislation.
At a pre-election accountability assembly attended by 600 TMO leaders
at New Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, top mayoral candidates mostly agreed to support TMO's inequality agenda, which included police staffing, road improvements and wages. All except one candidate pledged $1 Million out of the City budget for expansion workforce development program Capital IDEA-Houston.
Costello Highlights City's Budget Woes at TMO Forum, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Exigen Respuestas de Candidatos a Alcadia, Univision
Following up on its $5 million win from the last legislative session in 2013, Texas IAF leaders - including several from TMO - succeeded in ensuring that the Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant program (and its $5 million in funding) stayed on the Texas budget. This means that Texas IAF workforce development programs like Capital IDEA-Houston, Project ARRIBA, VIDA, Project QUEST, SkillsQuest and Capital IDEA of Austin can apply for these funds to expand the job training they currently offer.
Capital IDEA-Houston, founded by TMO, is an integral strategy to train people out of low-wage employment and into living wage careers.
According to regular Metro bus rider Julia Ramirez, it is going to take a lot more than minor changes to make bus service in Houston more rider friendly. She notes that her commute takes at least two hours each way, and requires three transfers. She presents a four-step proposal for wholesale improvement in the article below. [Photo Credit: Gary Coronado, Houston Chronicle ]
More Than Tweaks Needed to Achieve Rider-Friendly Bus Service, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Responding to David Brooks' assertion that the President's proposal to provide cost-free community college access is not enough, TMO leaders Rev. Kevin Collins, Mr. Franklin Olson and Mr. Bob Fleming agree, but go further to share the good news that the programs Brooks calls for already exist in Texas.
"Local programs in San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley developed by IAF affiliates have graduated thousands of students from our community colleges, lifting them out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. These initiatives are ripe for expansion and replication." Capital IDEA-Houston is just one of such programs. Read more below: